Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Solar Photovoltaic Installers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, assemble, install, or maintain solar panel systems on roofs or other structures.

Duties of Solar Photovoltaic Installers

PV installers typically do the following:

  • Plan PV system configuration based on customer needs and site conditions
  • Install solar modules, panels, or support structures in accordance with building codes and standards
  • Connect PV panels to the power grid
  • Apply weather sealing to equipment being installed
  • Activate and test PV systems to verify performance
  • Perform routine PV system maintenance

Sunlight is considered an environmentally friendly source of energy. By way of photovoltaic panels, sunlight is transformed into electricity. Recent technological advances have sufficiently reduced the cost of solar panels to make it a viable source of electricity for businesses and homeowners alike. PV installers put these systems in place.

PV installers use a variety of hand and power tools to install photovoltaic panels. They often use wrenches, saws, and screwdrivers to connect panels to frames, wires, and support structures.

Many new workers begin by performing basic tasks, such as installing support structures and placing PV panels or PV shingles on top of them. Once the panels are in place, more experienced installers usually perform more complex duties, such as connecting electrical components.

Depending on the job and state laws, PV installers may connect the solar arrays to the electric grid, although electricians sometimes perform this duty. Once installed, workers check electrical systems for proper wiring, polarity, grounding, and integrity of terminations, and perform maintenance as needed.

Work Environment for Solar Photovoltaic Installers[About this section] [To Top]

Solar photovoltaic installers hold about 5,900 jobs. The industries that employ the most solar photovoltaic installers are as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 39%
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 24
Power and communication line and related structures construction 6

Because photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity, most PV installation is done outdoors. Residential installers work on rooftops and in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electric grid. PV installers who build solar farms work at ground level and need to build structures to hold the PV panel framework.

PV installers may work alone or as part of a team. Installation of a solar array may require the help of roofers and electricians as well as solar photovoltaic installers.

PV installers must travel to job sites. Residential installers are likely to work at a different location every day.

Injuries and Illnesses

Solar photovoltaic installers risk falls from ladders and roofs, electrical shocks, and burns from hot equipment and materials while installing and maintaining PV systems. Those working on roofs must use required fall protection equipment.

Solar Photovoltaic Installer Work Schedules

Nearly all solar photovoltaic installers work full time, which may include evening and weekend hours. They may be on call to handle emergencies, meaning they are not formally on duty but are available to work if necessary.

How to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Solar Photovoltaic Installers near you!

There are multiple paths to becoming a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, often called PV installers. Some workers need only a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Other candidates take a course at a technical school or community college. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.

Solar Photovoltaic Installer Education

Some PV installers take courses at local community colleges or trade schools to learn about solar panel installation. Courses range from basic safety and PV knowledge to system design. Although course length varies by state and locality, most usually last a few days to several months.

Some candidates may enter the field by taking online training courses. This is particularly useful for candidates with prior construction experience, such as former electricians.

Solar Photovoltaic Installer Training

Some PV installers learn their trade on the job by working with experienced installers. On-the-job training usually lasts between 1 month and 1 year, during which workers learn about safety, tool use, and PV system installation techniques.

Solar PV system manufacturers may also provide specific training on a product. Such training usually includes a system overview and proper installation techniques of the manufacturer’s products.

Some large construction contractors provide training to new employees on their own. Workers learn basic PV safety and are given increasingly complex tasks as they prove their abilities.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense launched the Solar Ready Vets program in 2014 to connect veterans with jobs in the solar industry.

Although there are currently no apprenticeship programs for solar photovoltaic installers, some learn PV installation through other occupational apprenticeship programs. Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules.

In most states, an electrician is fully qualified to connect PV systems to electric grids. They are also able to connect panels to inverters and batteries.

Important Qualities for Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Customer-service skills. Residential panel installers must work in customers’ homes. As a result, workers must maintain professionalism and perform the work in a timely manner.

Detail oriented. PV installers must carefully follow instructions during installation. If they fail to do so, the system may not work properly.

Mechanical skills. PV installers work with complex electrical and mechanical equipment. They must be able to build support structures that hold PV panels in place and properly connect the panels to the electrical system.

Physical stamina. PV installers are often on their feet carrying panels and other heavy equipment. When installing rooftop panels, workers may need to climb ladders many times during the course of the day.

Physical strength. PV installers must often lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools. Workers should be strong enough to lift panels that weigh up to 50 pounds.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Experience in construction may shorten a new employee’s training time. For example, workers with experience as an electrician, roofer, carpenter, or laborer typically already understand and can perform basic construction duties.

In addition, those with knowledge of electrical work, such as electricians, are highly valued by contractors.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not mandatory, PV installers may obtain certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Certification can demonstrate professionalism and basic PV knowledge to employers. To qualify, workers must complete at least 58 hours of advanced PV training at an accredited school or organization, as well as a 10-hour construction safety course through Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). They also need to pass an exam and show documentation of having led three to five PV installation projects, depending on prior experience.

The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA) also offers photovoltaic installer certification. Education and training must be taken from an ETA-approved school.

There is also the Certified Solar Roofing Professional (CSRP) credential offered by Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc. In order to qualify, workers need to prove they have 40 hours of education or training related to basic competencies. Additionally, candidates need to have 3 years of roofing or PV installation experience and have completed at least five PV installations. They must also pass a test.

Solar Photovoltaic Installer Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers is $37,830. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,670.

The median annual wages for solar photovoltaic installers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors $39,150
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 37,970
Power and communication line and related structures construction 36,110

Nearly all solar photovoltaic installers work full time, which may include evening and weekend hours. They may be on call to handle emergencies, meaning they are not formally on duty but are available to work if necessary.

Job Outlook for Solar Photovoltaic Installers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, is projected to grow 24 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,400 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The expansion and adoption of solar panel installation is expected to create new jobs. As the cost of PV panels and shingles continues to fall, more residential households are expected to take advantage of these systems, resulting in greater demand for the workers who install them. The increasing popularity of solar leasing plans—in which homeowners lease rather than purchase systems—should create additional demand, as they no longer bear the upfront costs of installation.

The long-term outlook, however, is heavily dependent on government incentives, cost, and the continued improvement of PV panels. States and localities that provide incentives to reduce the cost of PV systems should experience greater demand for workers. Common incentives include tax rebates, direct subsidies, renewable energy purchase mandates, and net metering.

Solar Photovoltaic Installers Job Prospects

PV installers who complete a course in photovoltaic systems at a community college or technical school will have the best job opportunities. Those with apprenticeship or journey electrician experience will also have very good job opportunities. Workers with experience in construction occupations, such as laborers, roofers, and carpenters, will have better job opportunities than those without construction experience.

Employment of PV installers fluctuates with the overall economy. On the one hand, there is great demand for PV installers during peak periods of building activity. On the other hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls.

Employment projections data for Solar Photovoltaic Installers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Solar photovoltaic installers 5,900 7,400 24 1,400

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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